Tag

slaves

Persons who are the legal property of another and are forced to obey them without pay. At the time of the Constitutional Convention, there were roughly 700,000 slaves in the United States.

This is, covertly, the second mention of the three-fifths clause at the debate.  Wilson and Hamilton’s motion, if it had ultimately prevailed, would have meant that both Houses of the legislature would have been proportional, and both would have counted slaves at a ratio of three-fifths.  Considering how contentious both of these issues would later become, it is remarkable to note that this motion did initially pass, albeit narrowly, and with almost no argumentation.  The states that had voted for the rule in the first branch but against it in the second branch (Maryland, New York, and Connecticut) almost certainly did so because they objected to the Senate being assessed proportionally, not because they objected to the three-fifths rule.  In order to follow the tortured route that the three-fifths clause took on its way to adoption into the Constitution, follow the votes taken in:  (Paragraphs 458, 461, 1229, 1251, 1260, 1289, 1293, 1314, 2078, 2092, and 2702).

Annotated by luzzell on September 05, 2013

This is the first vote on the three-fifths ratio in the Constitutional Convention, and there are a few significant details worth noticing.  First, the motion was seconded by Charles Pinckney of South Carolina (which is understandable), but it was initiated by a Pennsylvanian, which seems strange given the prevalence of anti-slavery sentiment in that state.  Second, the rationale originally given for the ratio was that it conformed to the ratio that the Confederation Congress had already almost adopted for the purpose of requisitioning taxation (even though the ratio here would be used for a very different purpose – apportioning representation).  Third, there was only one objection to this rule when it was first advanced, by Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts.  And fourth, it passed overwhelmingly in this vote by the Committee of the Whole: 9 to 2.  It is possible, too, that the dissenters (New Jersey and Delaware) objected more to the idea that the rule for apportioning representation would be proportional rather than the fact that slaves would be counted at a ratio of three-fifths.  This issue would later become one of the more virulent battles within the Convention, but it is clear that the theoretical implications of the three-fifths rule was not immediately apparent to most of the participants.  In order to follow the tortured route that the three-fifths clause took on its way to adoption into the Constitution, follow the votes taken in:  (Paragraphs 458, 461, 1229, 1251, 1260, 1289, 1293, 1314, 2078, 2092, and 2702).

Annotated by luzzell on September 05, 2013